Tag - Sunday

Pope Francis: letter to Card. Filoni on World Mission Sunday



(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a letter to the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, on occasion of the 2017 iteration of World Mission Sunday. In the letter, the Holy Father reflects on the upcoming centenary of the great missionary charter of the 20th century, the Apostolic Letter Maximum illud of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XV, promulgated on November 30th, 1919.

Below, please find the full text of the letter in its official English translation

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To my Venerable Brother
Cardinal Fernando Filoni
Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples

On 30 November 2019, we will celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the promulgation of the Apostolic Letter Maximum Illud, with which Pope Benedict XV sought to give new impetus to the missionary task of proclaiming the Gospel.  In 1919, in the wake of a tragic global conflict that he himself called a “useless slaughter,”[1] the Pope recognized the need for a more evangelical approach to missionary work in the world, so that it would be purified of any colonial overtones and kept far away from the nationalistic and expansionistic aims that had proved so disastrous.  “The Church of God is universal; she is not alien to any people,”[2] he wrote, firmly calling for the rejection of any form of particular interest, inasmuch as the proclamation and the love of the Lord Jesus, spread by holiness of one’s life and good works, are the sole purpose of missionary activity.  Benedict XV thus laid special emphasis on the missio ad gentes, employing the concepts and language of the time, in an effort to revive, particularly among the clergy, a sense of duty towards the missions.

That duty is a response to Jesus’ perennial command to “go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15).  Obeying this mandate of the Lord is not an option for the Church: in the words of the Second Vatican Council, it is her “essential task,”[3] for the Church is “missionary by nature.”[4]  “Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity; she exists in order to evangelize.”[5]  The Council went on to say that, if the Church is to remain faithful to herself and to preach Jesus crucified and risen for all, the living and merciful Saviour, then “prompted by the Holy Spirit, she must walk the same path Christ walked: a path of poverty and obedience, of service and self-sacrifice.”[6]  In this way, she will effectively proclaim the Lord, “model of that redeemed humanity, imbued with brotherly love, sincerity and a peaceful spirit, to which all aspire.”[7]

 What Pope Benedict XV so greatly desired almost a century ago, and the Council reiterated some fifty years ago, remains timely.  Even now, as in the past, “the Church, sent by Christ to reveal and to communicate the love of God to all men and nations, is aware that there still remains an enormous missionary task for her to accomplish.”[8]  In this regard, Saint John Paul II noted that “the mission of Christ the Redeemer, which is entrusted to the Church, is still very far from completion,” and indeed, “an overall view of the human race shows that this mission is still only beginning and that we must commit ourselves wholeheartedly to its service.”[9]  As a result, in words that I would now draw once more to everyone’s attention, Saint John Paul exhorted the Church to undertake a “renewed missionary commitment”, in the conviction that missionary activity “renews the Church, revitalizes faith and Christian identity, and offers fresh enthusiasm and new incentive.  Faith is strengthened when it is given to others!  It is in commitment to the Church’s universal mission that the new evangelization of Christian peoples will find inspiration and support.”[10]

In my Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, drawing from the proceedings of the Thirteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which met to reflect on the new evangelization for the transmission of the Christian faith, I once more set this urgent summons before the whole Church.  There I wrote, “John Paul II asked us to recognize that ‘there must be no lessening of the impetus to preach the Gospel’ to those who are far from Christ, ‘because this is the first task of the Church.’  Indeed, ‘today missionary activity still represents the greatest challenge for the Church’ and ‘the missionary task must remain foremost.’ What would happen if we were to take these words seriously?  We would realize that missionary outreach is paradigmatic for all the Church’s activity.”[11] 

I am convinced that this challenge remains as urgent as ever. “[It] has a programmatic significance and important consequences.  I hope that all communities will devote the necessary effort to advancing along the path of a pastoral and missionary conversion that cannot leave things as they presently are.  ‘Mere administration’ can no longer be enough.  Throughout the world, let us be ‘permanently in a state of mission.’”[12]  Let us not fear to undertake, with trust in God and great courage, “a missionary option capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.  The renewal of structures demanded by pastoral conversion can only be understood in this light: as part of an effort to make them more mission-oriented, to make ordinary pastoral activity on every level more inclusive and open, to inspire in pastoral workers a constant desire to go forth and in this way to elicit a positive response from all those whom Jesus summons to friendship with himself.  As John Paul II told the Bishops of Oceania, ‘All renewal in the Church must have mission as its goal if it is not to fall prey to a kind of ecclesial introversion.’”[13]

The Apostolic Letter Maximum Illud called for transcending national boundaries and bearing witness, with prophetic spirit and evangelical boldness, to God’s saving will through the Church’s universal mission.  May the approaching centenary of that Letter serve as an incentive to combat the recurring temptation lurking beneath every form of ecclesial introversion, self-referential retreat into comfort zones, pastoral pessimism and sterile nostalgia for the past.  Instead, may we be open to the joyful newness of the Gospel.  In these, our troubled times, rent by the tragedies of war and menaced by the baneful tendency to accentuate differences and to incite conflict, may the Good News that in Jesus forgiveness triumphs over sin, life defeats death and love conquers fear, be proclaimed to the world with renewed fervour, and instil trust and hope in everyone.

In the light of this, accepting the proposal of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, I hereby call for an Extraordinary Missionary Month to be celebrated in October 2019, with the aim of fostering an increased awareness of the missio ad gentes and taking up again with renewed fervour the missionary transformation of the Church’s life and pastoral activity.  The Missionary Month of October 2018 can serve as a good preparation for this celebration by enabling all the faithful to take to heart the proclamation of the Gospel and to help their communities grow in missionary and evangelizing zeal.  May the love for the Church’s mission, which is “a passion for Jesus and a passion for his people,”[14] grow ever stronger!

I entrust you, venerable Brother, the Congregation which you head, and the Pontifical Missionary Societies with the work of preparing for this event, especially by raising awareness among the particular Churches, the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and among associations, movements, communities and other ecclesial bodies.  May the Extraordinary Missionary Month prove an intense and fruitful occasion of grace, and promote initiatives and above all prayer, the soul of all missionary activity.  May it likewise advance the preaching of the Gospel, biblical and theological reflection on the Church’s mission, works of Christian charity, and practical works of cooperation and solidarity between Churches, so that missionary zeal may revive and never be wanting among us.[15]

From the Vatican, 22 October 2017
XXIX Sunday of Ordinary Time
Memorial of Saint John Paul II
World Mission Sunday

[1] Letter to the Leaders of the Warring Peoples, 1 August 1917: AAS IX (1917), 421-423.

[2] Benedict XV, Apostolic Letter Maximum Illud, 30 November 1919: AAS 11 (1919), 445.

[3] Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church Ad Gentes, 7 December 1965, 7: AAS 58 (1966), 955.

[4] Ibid., 2: AAS 58 (1966), 948.

[5] Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, 8 December 1975, 14: AAS 68 (1976), 13.

[6] Decree Ad Gentes, 5: AAS 58 (1966), 952.

[7] Ibid., 8: AAS 58 (1966), 956-957.

[8] Ibid., 10: AAS 58 (1966), 959.

[9] Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Missio, 7 December 1990, 1: AAS 83 (1991), 249.

[10] Ibid., 2: AAS 83 (1991), 250-251.

[11] Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium 15: AAS 105 (2013), 1026.

[12] Ibid., 25: AAS 105 (2013), 1030.

[13] Ibid., 27: AAS 105 (2013), 1031.

[14] Ibid., 268: AAS 105 (2013), 1128.

[15] Ibid., 80: AAS 105 (2013), 1053.

(from Vatican Radio)



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Sunday Gospel Sept. 3, 2017



(Vatican Radio) In this week’s edition of There’s More in the Sunday Gospel than Meets the Eye, Jill Bevilacqua and Seàn-Patrick Lovett bring us readings and reflections for the Twentysecond Sunday in Ordinary Time. Listen:

Gospel  – Mt 16: 21-27

Jesus began to show his disciples
that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly
from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised. 
Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him,
God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” 
He turned and said to Peter,
“Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. 
You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

Then Jesus said to his disciples,
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me. 
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world
and forfeit his life? 
Or what can one give in exchange for his life? 
For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory,
and then he will repay all according to his conduct.”

(from Vatican Radio)



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XX Sunday – August 20, 2017



Is 56: 1, 6-7 : Rom 11: 13-15, 29-32:  Mt 15: 21-28

Anecdote:Never give up!”:  Many years ago in Illinois, a young man with six months schooling to his credit ran for an office in the legislature. As might have been expected, he was beaten. Next, he entered business but failed in that too, and spent the next seventeen years paying the debts of his worthless partner. He fell in love with a charming lady, they became engaged – and she died. He had a nervous breakdown. He ran for Congress and was defeated. He then tried to obtain an appointment to the U.S. Land Office but didn’t succeed. He became a candidate for the Vice-Presidency and lost. Two years later he was defeated in a race for the Senate. He ran for President and finally was elected. That man was Abraham Lincoln.     Today’s Gospel episode of healing gives us the same message in a more powerful way.

 Introduction: All three readings today speak of the expansive and universal nature of the “Kingdom of God,” although salvation was offered first to the Jews Although God set the Hebrew people apart as His chosen race, He included all nations in His plan for salvation and blessed all families of the earth in Abraham (Gn 12:1-3). By declaring through the prophet Isaiah (the first reading), “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples,” God reveals the truth that in His eyes there is no distinction among human beings on the basis of race, caste or color.  Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 67) rejects all types of religious exclusivity: “Let all the peoples praise You, O God; …For You judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon the earth, so that Your saving power may be known among all the nations.” In the second reading, Paul explains that, although the Jews were the chosen people, God turned to the Gentiles who received mercy through their Faith in Jesus. In the Gospel story, Jesus demonstrates that salvation was meant for the Gentiles as well as for the Jews by healing the daughter of a Gentile woman as a reward for her strong Faith. Thus, Jesus shows that God’s mercy and love are available to all who call out to Him in Faith.

The first reading explained, (Is 56: 1, 6-7): The third part of the book of the prophet Isaiah (chapters 56-66), was written mainly for the Jews who were returning from the Babylonian exile to join their relatives who had been left behind in Judea. But today’s lesson is primarily addressed to those Jews who, after the Exile had officially ended, still chose to remain in Babylon as Jews among the Gentiles. In this passage, the Lord God not only pleaded with these people who preferred exile to the labor of returning to the Promised Land to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple, but also tried to make them understand the role the Gentiles would have in their restored kingdom. Though in the past all who came to the God of Israel were required to accept the Law and the Covenant, God’s concern for those outside that Covenant led Him to a new and radical solution. “The foreigners,” the Lord God declared through Isaiah, “who join themselves to Yahweh, ministering to Him, loving the name of Yahweh and becoming His servants . . . them I will bring to My holy mountain and make joyful in My house of prayer . . . for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” Thus Isaiah’s prophecy consoled those Jews who had married Gentiles by assuring them that their God was equally interested in the people of other nations and in the descendants of Abraham. In short, the prophet reports, everyone has a part to play in God’s plan — even those who don’t belong to the “true religion.”

In the Responsorial Psalm (Ps 67) the Psalmist sings God’s blessing on the people of Israel and calls on all nations and peoples to praise God. The Psalm is a response to Yahweh’s declaration in the first reading that the Gentiles will be accepted at the altar of Yahweh.

Second Reading (Rom 11: 13-15, 29-32) explained: In Romans 9 – 11, Paul asks how God could apparently go back on His promise  to Abraham that Abraham’s descendants would always be God’s chosen people. Paul answers his own question by explaining that it had been God’s plan he should turn to the Gentiles and bring them into the Covenant. Frustrated by the slow pace of Jewish conversions, Paul devoted his preaching mission to the Gentiles.  Thus, God’s secret plan to invite all people into the Covenant would be revealed and completed. Paul was convinced that the Jewish nation would eventually accept Christ because God’s ”irrevocable” call, given to them through Abraham, was a call to eternal salvation. Paul’s failure to convert his fellow-Jews serves as a model for us who must accept failure in our own lives, especially when it concerns our loved ones who refuse what we judge to be to their advantage. 

Gospel exegesis: The significance of the miracle: The Gospels describe only two miraculous healings Jesus performed for Gentiles:  the healing of the centurion’s servant (Mt 8:10-12) in Capernaum, and the healing of the daughter of the Canaanite woman which we hear today. The encounter with the Canaanite woman took place outside Jewish territory in Tyre and Sidon, two coastal cities, twenty-five and fifty miles north of Galilee in present-day Lebanon.  The story of this miracle is told by Mark (7:24-30) as well as by Matthew (15:21-23).  Both miracles foreshadow the extension of the Gospel, the Good News, to the whole world.   The woman in the today’s miracle belonged to the old Canaanite stock of the Syro-Phoenician race.  The Canaanites were regarded as pagans and idolaters and, hence, as ritually unclean.  But this woman showed “a gallant and an audacious love which grew until it worshipped at the feet of the Divine, an indomitable persistence springing from an unconquerable hope, a cheerfulness which would not be dismayed” (Fr. James Rowland).  By granting the persistent request of the pagan woman, Jesus demonstrates that his mission is to break down the barriers and to remove the long-standing walls of division and mutual prejudice between the Jews and the Gentiles. God does not discriminate but welcomes all who believe in Him, who ask for His mercy and who try to do His will.

Trustful persistence rewarded.  Jesus first ignores both the persistent cry of the woman and the impatience of his disciples to send the woman away. He then tries to awaken true Faith in the heart of this woman by an indirect refusal, telling her, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  But the woman is persistent in her request. She kneels before him and begs, “Lord, help me.”  Now Jesus makes a seemingly harsh statement, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” The term “dogs” was a derogatory Jewish word for the Gentiles. Dogs were regarded by the Jews as unclean, because they would eat anything given to them, including pork. The woman noticed, however, that Jesus had used the word kunariois–the word for household pets – rather than the   ordinary Greek word for dogs – kuon.   She also observed that Jesus had used the word for dogs in a joking way – a sort of test of the woman’s Faith.  So she immediately matched wits with Jesus. Her argument runs like this:  Pets are not outsiders but insiders.  They not only belong to the family, but are part of the family. While they do not have a seat at the table, they enjoy intimacy at the family’s feet.  Hence, the woman replied: “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table” (v. 27), expressing her Faith that Jesus could and would heal her daughter.  Jesus was completely won over by the depth of her Faith, her confidence and her wit and responded exuberantly, “Woman, great is your Faith!  Let it be done for you as you wish.” We notice that the woman was refused three times by Jesus before he granted her request and finally, the fourth time, her persistence was rewarded and her plea was answered.  This Gospel episode is an account of a woman who got more from the Kingdom of God than she hoped for. The woman came to Jesus asking for one miracle and she got two. This is really a double miracle, for the daughter was exorcised of her demonic possession and received a new life, and the mother, through her experience with Christ, found a new life as well. The greatness of this woman’s Faith consists in: a) her willingness to cross the barrier of racism; b) her refusal to be put off or ignored because of her position in life and c) her humility in admitting that she did not deserve the Master’s attention and time.

Life messages: #1) We need to persist in prayer with trustful confidence.  Although the essential parts of prayer are adoration and thanksgiving, the prayer of petition plays a big part in most people’s daily life. We cannot provide, by our unaided selves, for our spiritual and temporal needs. Christ himself has told us to ask him for these needs: “Ask and you shall receive.” Asking with fervor and perseverance proves that we have the “great Faith” we need to be able to receive all that Christ wants to grant us in response to our requests. We must realize and remember that we do not always get exactly what we ask for, but rather what God knows we need, what He wants for us and what is really best for us.  What we need most is to receive the peace and security that come from being in harmony with God’s will for us.  As Christians, we also know that our particular requests may not always be for our good, or for the final good of the person for whom we are praying. In that case, the good God will not grant what would be to our, or their, eternal harm. But if the prayer is sincere and persevering, we will always get an answer – one which is better than what we asked for. Hence let us trust that every time we pray for something, the answer is already on its way before we even asked God. We just need to trust God’s timetable and infinite wisdom that he will answer us according to His will and purpose.

#2) We need to pull down our walls of separation and share in the universality of God’s love: Very often we set up walls which separate us from God and from one another. Today’s Gospel reminds us that God’s love and mercy are extended to all who call on him in Faith and trust, no matter who they are. In other words, God’s care extends beyond the boundaries of race and nation to the hearts of all who live, and God’s House should become a House of prayer for all peoples. It is therefore fitting that we should pray that the walls which our pride, intolerance and prejudice have raised, may crumble. Next, we have to be grateful to God for all the blessings we enjoy. As baptized members of the Christian community, we have been given special privileges and easy access to God’s love.  But we also have serious responsibilities arising from these gifts. One of these responsibilities is to make clear to others, with true humility and compassion, that God’s love, mercy and healing are for them also because they too are the children of God.(Fr. Antony Kadavil)

(from Vatican Radio)



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On Trinity Sunday Pope reflects on mystery of God’s identity


(Vatican Radio) On the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Pope Francis reflected on the “mystery of the identity of God” during the midday recitation of the Angelus in St Peter’s Square.

The Holy Father took as his starting point the greeting of St Paul in his Second Letter to the Corinthians: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” This greeting, he said, was inspired by Paul’s personal experience of the love of God. The Apostle encouraged the Christian community, despite its human limitations, “to become a reflection of the communion of the Trinity, of its goodness and beauty.” But, the Pope said, this comes about only through the experience of the mercy and forgiveness of God.

This was the experience of the Jewish people during the Exodus. When they broke the covenant, God came to Moses in the cloud to renew the pact, and revealed His own proper Name and its significance: “the Lord, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.” The Pope said this name shows us that “God is not distant and closed in on Himself”; rather, He is “Life which wishes to communicate itself; He is openness; He is Love which redeems man’s infidelity.”

The revelation of God’s Name in the Old Testament, he continued, is fulfilled in the New, in the words of Christ and His mission of salvation. Jesus, he said, “has shown us the face of God, One in substance and Triune in Persons; God is all and only Love, in a subsisting relationship that creates, redeems, and sanctifies all: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

This is the context of the scene from the Gospel where Christ speaks with Nicodemus. Although Nicodemus was an important figure in the community, he never stopped seeking God. But speaking with Jesus, he comes to know that God has already sought him; that God waits for him, that God loves him personally. Here we find the famous words of Christ: “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.” This eternal life is none other than “the immeasurable and gratuitous love of the Father that Jesus gave on the Cross, offering His life for our salvation.”

Pope Francis concluded his reflection with the prayer that the Virgin Mary might “help us to enter ever more, with our whole selves, into the trinitarian Communion, to live and bear witness to the love that gives sense to our existence.”

(from Vatican Radio)



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Pope Easter Sunday Mass: Hold fast to faith



(Vatican Radio) On Easter Sunday morning Pope Francis presided over Mass in St Peter’s Square festooned for the occasion with colourful tulips from Holland.

Breaking with tradition the Pope gave an off the cuff homily encouraging Christians to keep the faith despite the wars, sickness and hatred in the world.

“The Church never ceases to say, faced with our defeats, our closed and fearful hearts, `stop, the Lord is risen.’ But if the Lord is risen, how come these things happen?”

He went on to say “Nobody asks us: `But, are you happy with all that’s happening in the world?’ Are you willing to go forward’,” carrying a cross, as Jesus did?

The Pope also noted in his impromptu homily that ” in this culture of waste what is not needed is thrown away, discarded, that stone – Jesus – is discarded and is the source of life.

And we too, pebbles on the ground, in this land of pain, tragedy, with faith in the Risen Christ we have a wisdom in the midst of many calamities.

The wisdom to look beyond and say, “look there is no wall; there is a horizon, there is life, there is joy, there is the cross amidst this ambivalence. Look ahead, do not close in on yourself”.

(from Vatican Radio)



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